Trip Start Sep 21, 2007
Trip End Apr 10, 2009

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Hi my dear readers,
This is my last entry..... this year! I am back in Yangshuo for a while now, celebrating Christmas and New Year. So from Yangshuo I wish all the people who I haven't given the best wishes yet all the best for 2008! Let's make it a great year!
My last entry was in Shanghai, so I'll start from there.
The day I left Shanghai, the weather changed and it started raining. Rain and overcast skies have been the weather type pretty much all the time, and it still is, although it's getting better.  The temperature has been somewhere between 5 and 15 in the day, much colder at night. So I left Shanghai and arrived by bus in Suzhou, in a slight drizzle, walked about 6 kms to the hostel and didn't do much the rest of the day.
The first full day in Suzhou it was dry and I went to the small canal town of Tongli. The entry price of Y80 (about 8 euro) was quite steep, but in the end it was worth it I guess. I teamed up with a Chinese guy from Shenzhen and we walked around the town the whole day. There were quite a few nice mansions with pretty gardens and lots of little canals. We also went out to a small island in the lake, and on that island was a small lake, with great reflections of nearby buildings.
The following day I saw some gardens (that's what Suzhou is famous for), the Silk Museum and a couple of pagodas. After this I wandered around Suzhou back to my hostel and grabbed my backpacks and continued to the bus station, from where I took a bus to Nanjing. After a boring ride I arrived Nanjing, but couldn't quite orientate myself, and I didn't know at what bus station I would arrive. Luckily, the friendly people from the bus guided me to a subway station, from where I could continue the trip into town. The hostel I wanted to stay at was only one subway station further down the line. Because it was already quite late, I didn't do much anymore that day.
The next day I visited the dead. By that I mean I went to both the Ming Xiaoling Tomb, the grave of the first Ming emperor and the only one to be buried outside Beijing, and to the Sun Yatsen Mausoleum, the grave of the father of modern China. The first one was a predecessor in terms of design for later Ming tombs and even the Forbidden City in Beijing, while the second one was more impressive. I also went to the Linggu Temple complex, which was a bit of a anticlimax. All these sights are on a mountain near Nanjing and after that I went back to town to see the Zhonghua Gate, a gate consisting of 4 gates behind each other: very impressive. After taking a closer look I discovered that the buildings on top of the 3 smaller gates are fakes and made of styrofoam: quite a disappointment, because I was really fooled.
I couldn't leave Nanjing without visiting the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall, especially because this atrocity happened exactly 70 years ago when I was in Nanjing. For those who don't know: on 13 December 1937 the Japanese captured the city of Nanjing - the then capital of China, and in the six weeks after that killed between 300,000 and 400,000 civilians and raped at least 20,000 women and little girls. The exhibition tells this story without being very nationalistic and the stories and pictures are very impressive. It was also very busy today and I was being pushed all the time. At a certain time I realised that it was already quite late, so I rushed to the exit, which I thought would be near the entrance, but I wasn't allowed to exit here. I ran around the complex for almost half an hour to find an exit and when I found it I ran to the bus stop where I there was a bus leaving at that very moment. Back at the hostel I grabbed my stuff, walked quickly to the subway station, and there I took a subway to the main train station. Arriving here I had only 20 minutes left for the train to Tunxi. I had a hard seat, which was fine and about 5 hours later I arrived at about 10 o'clock in Tunxi, where I checked in into a hostel and booked a bus for that following early morning to Huang Shan. In the dormitory met the French-Canadian Max, with whom I talked until very late that night.
A few hours later Max and I, together with an Israeli girl got into the minibus towards Huang Shan. Huang Shan is supposed to be the most beautiful mountain in China. The minibus dropped us in Tangkou, a small village at the base of the mountain, but alas not at the bus station. So we took a taxi to the beginning of the trail. The trail consists mostly of steps and we ascended via the so-called eastern steps. This climb was relatively easy, at least for Max and me. The peaks at the summit were beautiful and the views were pretty good. After walking around here for a while, we headed back down, now via the western steps. This path was way more interesting than the eastern steps, with much better views. This path is also twice as long (about 15 kms) and pretty much steps all the way. I really started to feel this after a while, especially on my knees. It also turned dark, and the last part we were walking in the dark. Having arrived at the car park at the bottom of the steps, we took a taxi to the Tangkou bus station, only to find out that we'd missed the last bus by 30 minutes. We decided to walk to a main road to see if there were maybe buses passing by.  While doing this we met Mr Hu, who told us there were no buses anymore. They talked about this guy in the Lonely Planet, so we figured he was alright. We went to his small restaurant, had some food and here the Israeli girl turned sick and threw up: maybe we had pushed here a little bit too hard today. After dinner Mr Hu arranged a rather cheap taxi for us to bring us back to Tunxi.
The next day we didn't do anything at all, just resting and using the internet. We also watched a movie that night. The day after that lazy day Max and I went to visit the Unesco village of Hongcun, where they also shot large parts of the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The village was quite beautiful, but after an hour so we'd seen the whole place. We were a little too late to also visit the similar nearby of Xidi and decided to head back to Tunxi. Here Max took the train to go to Xiamen.
I stayed another night and continued the next day to Wuyuan. After checking in into a cheap hotel I took a bus to Qinghua. I was unlucky that it rained most of the day, as was also the case in Qinghua. The main sight of this village is an old covered bridge. Covered sounds extra good because it was raining. It was a nice bridge, but this was pretty much all there was to see in this village (apart from small and cute alleyways) so I decided to take the next bus back to Wuyuan, which happened to have the same driver and conductor. Back in Wuyuan I was just lazy and didn't do anything special.
From Wuyuan I took a bus to Jingdezhen, a beautiful bus ride through hilly countryside. In Jingdezhen I changed buses to go to the big city of Nanchang. This bus ride was rather boring. In Nanchang I walked a long way to a cheap hotel according to the Lonely Planet, but the prices had quadrupled since. But they were nice enough to find me another, much cheaper hotel. In Nanchang there's not much to do, apart from some shopping, which I did. For example, there's a big Wall Mart next to a very communist square.
After a few days in Nanchang I continued my travels and took the night train to Guilin, from where I took a bus to Yangshuo, the second time this trip. And Yangshuo is the place where still am today. I am doing not much at all here, apart from enjoying myself while being lazy. I finally met Lulu, a co-owner of a few restaurants here in Yangshuo, whom I befriended 4 years ago. I also met Max again and at Christmas Eve Lulu and her husband Tony invited us for a Christmas meal Chinese style (duck). Max and I also became friends with the Israeli couple Liza and Elad and we enjoyed long evenings at Lulu's Place. Yesterday we went to Guilin: Max, Liza, Elad, Amy (a waitress from Lulu's Place) and me and we had great fun, although we didn't see much and what we saw what very unimpressive: a park full of very tacky cartoon figures and a boring cave full of coloured lights.
After New Year I will leave Yangshuo and will go to the Chinese tropical island of Hainan and after that I will decide where to go next.
I also uploaded quite a few pictures and this I am doing all the time pretty much as soon as I get the chance.
Last but not least: I wish everybody a great 2008!!
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